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Promoting women’s rights in a cyber world

U of T expert speaks about online environment on International Women’s Day

(photo by GabrielaP93)

Internet and social media-based technologies continue to change the nature of social activism around the globe.

This evolving cyber-forum frames much of the research of Faye Mishna, dean and professor of the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto, as she explores its intersection with bullying, counseling and interventions with vulnerable groups.

In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8, Mishna will be delivering a lecture titled, “Promoting Women’s Rights in a Cyber World: New Opportunities, New Challenges.”

Mishna spoke to U of T News about how the online environment is shaping women’s rights.

What will you speak about on Friday?

The new cyber social media world we live in has revolutionized how we communicate and interact. It’s provided both tremendous opportunities and many challenges. I’m going to be talking about opportunities and challenges as they relate to women and women’s rights.

What kind of challenges does a cyber-environment present to women?

Some of the challenges include women being intimidated or harassed online by people who may be known to them or who may be anonymous and anywhere in the world. We know that women experience such behaviour offline. However, factors such as anonymity and the potential for mass involvement as participants and as bystanders can intensify these situations and add new challenges.

What benefits or opportunities can women experience from the online environment?

The cyber world provides unprecedented opportunities for women to communicate, organize, challenge and be heard.

Can you share some examples of women or women-centric stories that benefitted from these online opportunities for social activism?

A poignant example is the girl in India who was brutally raped and murdered in December 2012. Social media provided a way to mobilize information about this incident and raise awareness about violence against girls and women in India in a way that ignited passion across the world. The online coverage contributed to the sustained outrage.

What should women consider as they engage with the cyber world?

It is important to raise awareness about both the opportunities and challenges of the cyber world.  There is a need for education in order  to increase access for women so that they can make use of the opportunities. There is a need to find ways to confront the risks, and when possible to use policy and the law to promote civil rights.